Geek Speak

Mile High Magic Documents Denver's Magic: The Gathering Scene -- Game On!

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I've been following the development of this doc since I stumbled across it on reddit almost a year ago. I tracked the director and producers down and as they shared their vision for the film, I went from intrigued to excited. I did have one major reservation, though -- would this movie be able to serve two very different audiences? Could they make something that would appeal to the kind of hardcore Magic fans who were to be its subjects, while also appealing to a wider audience that might know very little, or even nothing, about the game when they sit down to watch it?

The thing is, Magic is an incredibly complex game. Even trying to explain it conceptually to someone can be tough -- and it's difficult to follow along as someone else plays a game, much less learn it well enough to play yourself. Perhaps as a result, the game has developed a thriving, but quite insular, subculture. People who play Magic tend to really fucking play it, often to the exclusion of everything else. To appeal to them, it takes a deep knowledge of the game, and they're going to jump on any perceived inaccuracy, no matter how slight.

Compounding that, the Magic community is really a lot of overlapping subcommunities, broken up by the type of Magic you play -- limited or constructed, Commander or Standard, competitive "grinders" or casuals, just to name a few. (See, I told you it was complex, and that's not even getting into the actual gameplay, which obviously varies quite a bit from format to format.) Any one of those formats or play styles could easily provide enough fodder for a feature-length doc, but focus on one to the exclusion of all others and you risk alienating a significant portion of the audience. Add in the fact that it's a game with more than twenty years of history, including heroes, villains, scandals and feel-good stories, and it's obvious that even finding the right angle to take is an enormous task.

On the other hand, the typical documentary fan just wants to have a peek into a unique, hopefully entertaining, world they know little or nothing about. To understand what they're seeing, they need some explanation, but not too much and not too high-level. They aren't likely to get hung up on minor inconsistencies or points of contention within the community. They want ninety minutes of edification and entertainment, and maybe a few memorable characters along the way.

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Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky, from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games.
Contact: Cory Casciato